Published by Camilla on 27 Jun 2011 at 09:54 am
Guests of honor at the Paris Air Show last week, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the visionaries behind the Solar Impulse project, were basking in the limelight at Le Bourget airport as their zero fuel aeroplane took off into the sunny skies of Paris yesterday. Piccard describes the thinking behind their inspirational project and why he thinks the 75 million euro price tag is a good investment.
Having circumnavigated the world in a hot air balloon in 1999, Bertrand Piccard’s latest quest to do the same in a solar powered plane seems to be on track. Describing his latest adventure as “inspiring new solutions rather than actually creating them” (since there is no foreseeable way of building a solar-powered plane for commercial use), he says that their ambitious Solar Impulse project aims to change mentalities toward the use of renewable energy.
Overcoming fear and reducing dependency on fossil fuels
When asked about what will support real change among consumers rather than just a change in mentalities, Piccard explains that “it [real change] will start taking place when governments start putting legal systems into place to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels”. For example, increasing petrol prices at the pump. For this to happen, he says people have to encourage their governments to reduce their dependency on fossil fuel and overcome the fear of change.
Speaking at a bloggers breakfast last Friday attended by Camilla from WiserEarth, Piccard said that he was convinced that projects like Solar Impulse are needed to help motivate people to think differently about the benefits of technology.
When asked about the cost of the project, he said that they could have spent the 75 million euros on an advertising campaign. Instead they chose Solar Impulse.
What does Bertrand Piccard do to reduce his own dependency of fossil fuels?
- drives a hybrid car
- heats swimming pool using solar
- reduced the heating in his house by 45%
- changed all lightbulbs
“When you invest in the long-term you end up saving money”, says Piccard.
About the project – Flight as the source of dreams
Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, his co-pilot, will be attempting to fly Solar Impulse across the Atlantic in 2013 and around the world in 2014. The experimental solar plane that they have built has already shown it is capable of flying day and night in July 2010 thanks to a highly developed system of solar panels & superbly light plane design.
Stretching 64 metres long, the wing span of Solar Impulse is similar to that of the Airbus A340. The comparison, however, stops there; the plane is extremely light (just 1,600kg) and its average speed as around 70 km/h.
Some 12.000 photovoltaic cells are integrated into the wing to feed 4 electric motors and the lithium polymer batteries which enable the plane to fly at night.
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